News & Views

Corporate manslaughter appeal rebuffed

BY Thomas Elliott
Health & Safety
BG Orange

The Court of Appeal has refused an appeal application from the first company to be convicted of Corporate Manslaughter.

Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Limited submitted an application for leave to appeal against its conviction and sentence.

The organisation was found guilty of Corporate Manslaughter following the death of 27 year old Geologist, Alexander Wright, in September 2008, who was asphyxiated when an unsupported trench collapsed whilst he was taking soil samples.  Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd was fined £385,000 at Winchester Crown Court in February of this year for failing to ensure the safety of Mr. Wright.  

A statement by the prosecution said “As far as sentence was concerned, the fine imposed was appropriate. To limit a fine to the level which this company was capable of paying would have resulted in a ludicrous penalty. The trial judge correctly applied the Sentencing Guidelines, had regard to the need to consider the means of the company, but also had regard to the recognition in the guidelines that, in some cases, putting the company out of business may be inevitable, as it was in this case.”

Although the organisation has been allowed to pay back the fine over a ten year period, at £38,500 per annum, it has been described as being in a perilous financial state. 

Partner Kevin Bridges of Pinset Masons who defended the organisation said "The decision to uphold the sentence given for this conviction brings home with full force the severity with which such cases will be judged. It should serve as a stark reminder to businesses and their directors that now is the time to get their houses in order, as anyone who falls foul of this Act will be harshly punished. Small businesses may find themselves unable to continue trading, while larger organisations can expect multi-million-pound fines.”

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